Aug 18: Anirban Lahiri reckons he is only 60 to 70 percent of what he was before being struck down by Covid in May. Yet he is happy at being able to get back to the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2018.
The travelling, incessant play and then going to Japan for Olympics and coming back for the Wyndham Championship, the final event of the regular season, did take a toll as he has been understandably tired.
Of his return to the Play-offs at the NORTHERN TRUST in. New Jersey, and before that securing his Tour card, he said, “I’m thrilled. I’m delighted. It’s been a challenging year, and I’ve had a few hurdles to jump over, and I’m happy that I find myself here. How far I go from here, the reins are back in my hands, and I can actually — if I just play well, I can make it even better. So, yeah, I’m really excited.”
Lahiri, 34, had his last global win at the 2016 Hero Indian Open and his best in 2021 has been T-3 at Barbasol and T-5 at Texas Open will play the $ 9.5 million Northern Trust from Thursday and then if he jumps from current 121st to inside Top-70 he gets to play the next from where he needs to get his FedEx Cup points sufficient enough to be inside Top-30. “I need to play really well and go deep in the next two weeks,” said Lahiri, though the pressure of the card for next season, which begins as early next month, is now off.
On his fitness which was affected by his brush with Covid, Lahiri said, “I think it took me about two full months before I could start getting back closer to my normal speed and normal strength. So I would say by the end of June I started feeling a lot better, but it just so happened with my category and with the schedule it was this year, I played a lot of events in June and July. It was really good for me in the sense that coming out of COVID I was able to manage my energy levels really well.”
He added, “But going into the last part of the season, obviously, there was no choice. I had to go for broke. I had to take every opportunity. So I played four weeks on the TOUR starting with the Travelers Championship through the Barbasol, and then I had maybe four days off before I left for Tokyo. Tokyo, as you know, was extremely hot and humid, and it took a lot out of us. Then when I came back, I had another four days before I started last week.
“I would have said that my conditioning was really good, but these last 45 days, playing four weeks, traveling, playing in Japan, coming back, has definitely taken some out of me, so I would say I’m probably close to like 60 or 70 percent. So my main focus these last two weeks has been managing my energy, managing my workload, making sure I’m getting enough practice and enough rest so I’m still fresh.”
Having a full card is the biggest plus for Lahiri, who can plan his schedule. He said, “In the last couple of years, a lot of times you’re waiting to see am I going to enter, is something going to withdraw, am I going to get an invite. Being inside 125 you can also pick and choose which events you play and which ones you skip, you know, what golf courses fit you and what golf courses don’t fit you because that’s not something in your hands if you’re in the other category because you’re going to play whatever you get into. So it’s a big deal.”
“You’re almost guaranteed to play all the full field events. When I say full field events, it is barring the invitationals, which is Bay Hill, the Genesis, and Memorial, and also the CJ and the ZOZO Cup, which are the other two short field events. So outside of these events, you’re pretty much guaranteed entry into every other event, including THE PLAYERS Championship, which is almost like a fifth major.”
He is also conscious that he has not been able to get his first win. “I really need to win. I really need to get that off my chest. I need to get that, you know, albatross off my shoulders, cross off my neck in a way. But I also feel like I’ve been through so many cycles, so many ups and downs and ups and downs and challenges physically, challenges mentally, emotionally. Being away from home, beginning to make this TOUR and this place my home, a lot has happened. So hopefully this next season will be the season when I finally get my first win.”
Game wise, Lahiri is now in a happy place, having sorted his equipment woes. He added, “I became a free agent last year, which basically means I don’t have an equipment contract with any one company. I think that’s really allowed me to play the best 14 clubs that I could play for myself. That’s definitely helped me a lot. I think some of my shortcomings was because of contractual obligations that was inhibiting me, and also the fact that I’ve started working again, more specifically on my fitness, trying to get stronger, also working on my biomechanics with my trainer here, Ken Macdonald, who’s really helped me get faster as well.”
So for now it is the play-offs and then a new season soon after.